Thursday, 20 September 2012

“Tonight and every night, you MUST press your Not The End Of The World button,” 1968

The climate of fear fostered by The Cold War left people in need of reassurance. The innovative Not The End Of The World button, the last major undertaking of the Ministry of Works, was piloted in 3,840,000 homes across London, the Scilly Isles and the East Riding of Liverpool (now Manchester). The project proved a success, with Postmaster General Roger Clout calling it “Among Britain’s finest hours, alongside The [Battle of the] Bulge and [The 19]66 [World Cup Final which we won].”

Everyone with a Not The End Of The World button complied faultlessly throughout the six-year trial, although, in Government papers released under the 33⅓-year rule in May 2001, it was revealed that over half of the buttons had been dummies, wired to earth and no farther.

Each of the five major Isles of Scilly had its own button warden, or Sheriff-at-Armageddonsnook, patrolling the island nightly to check that the inhabitants had carried out their duty. One of them, Billy Trewilliams, was a renowned practical joker who took great delight in teasing Scillonians that their buttons were showing as inactivated at the local exchange, often causing hilarious fugues of late-night panic. He is remembered today in the phrase “Scilly Billy,” and mysteriously disappeared on a quiet night in July 1972. His body was never sought.

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